OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska residents have weighed in on a referendum aimed at repealing a 2015 state law that abolished the sentence, with supporters saying it’s necessary for harsh crimes and opponents saying it’s expensive and immoral.
Arguments of morality and justice clashed as 10 people testified Tuesday night in Omaha at the first of three public hearings.
Nebraska residents already have begun voting on the referendum ahead of the Nov. 8 election. The question on the ballot asks voters to choose whether to retain or repeal the law.
“But in the end, in Nebraska, what’s hard to dispute is that the death penalty is a government program that hasn’t worked,” said Dean Strang, of the Nebraska Innocence Project. “It’s very expensive. It’s not served Nebraska meaningfully and won’t, going forward.”
Marylyn Felion, who witnessed the Nebraska execution of Robert Williams in 1997, said the death penalty is no longer needed to protect society. She claims the execution of Williams took a toll on the prison personnel, who according to Felion left the execution chamber sobbing.
“I say this as one who believes the death penalty says more about us than it says about the person in the death chamber,” she said.
Vivian Tuttle testified that only an execution would have held those who killed her daughter and four others at a Norfolk bank in 2002 accountable. Tuttle also said her youngest granddaughter has lived in fear since losing her mother at age three.
“She’s depressed, she’s angry, she’s afraid. And she carries that fear because of what happened that day,” said Tuttle.
Tuttle believes the bloodshed from the day she lost her daughter is worth more than any money that goes into funding an execution.
The upcoming hearings are scheduled for Oct. 13 and Oct. 18.